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PISA 2018 results: Estonia’s education is the best in Europe

According to the latest PISA tests results, Estonia’s basic education is among the strongest in the world and the absolute best in Europe – Estonia is number one in Europe in all three domains of assessment: in reading, mathematics and science.

The OECD published the latest PISA tests results today, and Estonia has even improved its previous outstanding position in two domains.  The PISA results suggest that Estonia’s education system is effective and ensures equity – students’ academic performance is independent of their socio-economic background.

Globally, Estonian students rank 4th in science, 5th in reading and 8th in math.

“Our consistently excellent PISA results show that we have made right choices in our education policy in this fast-changing world. I am glad that Estonia is increasingly known and recognised as an education nation,” said Mailis Reps, the Minister of Education and Research of Estonia.

Estonians have the best growth mindset in the world

The majority (77%) of Estonian students exhibit growth mindset – they believe that they are capable of improving their intelligence and are willing to put effort into their own development in order to secure a better future. This is the highest among OECD countries. Estonian students also experience fear of failure less than their peers in other countries. 70% of students plan to attain higher education; the most popular professions are ICT specialist, doctor, CEO, architect and psychologist.

It’s possible that such a growth mindset and a fearless self-confidence, learned at an early age, have made Estonians bold in business. Estonians are the most enterprising people in the world. According to World Economic Forum 2017, Estonia ranks the 1st globally in entrepreneurial activity. There are 650 startups in Estonia ready to conquer the world, following the four Estonian unicorns: Skype, Playtech, TransferWise and Bolt.

Estonia is known and recognised worldwide as a successful and innovative e-state. But how have world-changing companies like TransferWise, Bolt, and Skype grown out of a nation of only 1.3 million? Why does Estonia have one of the highest numbers of start-up companies per capita in the world? What prompted us to implement the “Tiger Leap” project, which digitised not only the education system but the entire public sector from governance to tax returns and led to innovation and transparency in many areas?

The answer is education. Estonia is an education nation

Education is valued in Estonian society — it has always been considered both a guarantee of individual success and one of the main drivers of the country’s development.

Thanks to the excellent results in PISA, Estonia has become an education expert in the world, said minister Mailis Reps.

“There is great interest in our success story. We have a story to share with the world. We have established an international brand and concept to introduce Estonia’s education,” Reps added.

The brand is called “Education Nation – for the smartEST people in the world”. Working together gives an opportunity to go further, increase the attractiveness of Estonia and provide better support to Estonian education technology companies, said Reps. The brand helps to share Estonia’s know-how, competences, experiences, trainings, smart solutions or products better and it will assemble a number of initiatives and undertakings that showcase Estonia’s education.

What does Estonian education stand out for in the world?

Estonia’s basic education is at the top of the world. Estonian students have achieved consistently high scores in the PISA tests. Our excellent position is due to the consistently high level of all students, and the number of top achievers has increased year by year while the number of students with substandard knowledge has declined. Estonian students have won hundreds of medals at international Olympiads over the last decade, confirming the quality of their expertise in the world’s top competition.

Digitised schools provide Estonian students with future skills. We make extensive use of the possibilities offered by modern technology in teaching. Estonian education, research, the ­field of youth, and language are becoming more intelligent, and digital skills and competences play essential roles. In addition to teaching knowledge and skills in the digital ­field, Estonian education widely uses numerous smart solutions: digital databases, digital textbooks, e-learning materials, digital class diary, digital assessments, not to mention various applications and programs. Various e-solutions ultimately make students’ schoolbags lighter, helping carry knowledge instead of a heavy schoolbag, improving posture, and making learning smarter. The Estonian school is mostly in the cloud; however, alongside digitisation, books and traditional activities are valued.

In Estonia, access to pre-primary and basic education is very fair compared to other countries, which means that, unlike most OECD countries, the possibility of a child obtaining an education in Estonia is not dependent on the level of education achieved by the parent.

Estonia has a high level of vocational training, higher education, and adult education. Vocational education has become an area of interest in many countries. Modernisation of vocational education started in 1995 — and today, close collaboration with businesses, contemporary study conditions, the involvement of students of various ages, and excellent teachers, provide quality content to our vocational education programs.

The most prominent universities in Estonia — Tartu University, Tallinn University, and TalTech — earn prestigious, globally recognised rankings (THE, QS). Higher education is flexible and accessible — supported by a wide range of study forms, consideration of learning and work experience in studying, and the opportunity to work during studies. Curricula, including many in English, are characterised by innovation and a particular focus on information technology and entrepreneurship.

PISA is a triennial international survey with a goal to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in mathematics, reading and sciences. Each PISA cycle explores one of the subjects in more detail. PISA 2018 focused on reading literacy. The financial literacy was also studies and the results will be published in 2020.

Estonian excellent results indicate that there are smart people here to create new solutions for today’s and future economies.

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